Breakfast sausage served alongside runny, sunny-side up eggs. Who could ask for anything more?
My Connecticut kitchen, gut-renovated in a disruptive and harrowing 12-week marathon last year, is my true north. It’s not fitted with enormous restaurant appliances or testosterone-fueled gadgets. Rather, its gray-green walls and white cabinets are more Zen than anything else, its lightly patterned countertops a tabula rasa.
Sure, when The One and I entertain or cook for ourselves, the kitchen is strewn with platters, checkerboarded with ramekins for mise en place, and littered with wine bottles. But during the week when he’s in NYC and I’m in alone in the country, the kitchen becomes my workshop. It’s where my craft happens. Real craft. Not just the putting together of ingredients, but the making of ingredients: Homemade Maple-Espresso Bacon; kicky breakfast sausage patties, corned beef, and pastrami; duck prosciutto; intense stocks and demi-glaces; homemade ketchups, mustards, and vinegars; even links of Portuguese chouriço, which Papa Leite once declared, through tears, to be as good as the ones he grew up eating in the Azores. Even our frigging compost is artisanal.
Why bother doing all this? I hear a friend ask in my head.
I do it because I’m almost always hungry. I do it because I find no greater purpose than sitting down at the table with my beloved and our friends, knowing that I’m filling bellies and sustaining friendships. I do it because while I’m brining meat, rinsing sausage casings, and roasting bones, all the craziness in my head stops.
It’s no different than my eighth-grade shop class at Joseph Case Junior High in Swansea, MA. Except that instead of chisels lining the wall, I’ve got knives lining a drawer, and instead of a mini foundry outside, I have a smoker on the patio. When I was 13, working in shop momentarily relieved my teenage angst, my feelings of being different, my terror at the betrayal by my surging homo hormones. Today, cooking in my kitchen workshop still beats back worries, but now they’re about the mortgage, the inevitability of growing older, and my waning homo hormones.
Why do it? “I do it because I can,” I say out loud to Devil Cat, who figure-eights between my legs, hoping for some scraps. It is here, in my kitchen, that I am utterly sure of myself.
Breakfast Sausage Patties
One of the most important things to keep in mind while making this breakfast sausage patties recipe is to keep everything cold, cold, cold. I scatter the pork butt (also known as pork shoulder) and fatback on a parchment-lined baking sheet and slip it in the freezer the moment I even begin to think about making the recipe and I leave them there until the edges of the meat are cold and crunchy. I even place the grinder’s auger, blade, and grinding plate in the freezer, too. Otherwise the fat can melt and the meat can get squishy as the grinder heats from use. If you find this happening to you, just put the rest of the meat in the freezer until chilled before proceeding.–David Leite
LC Dexter-ify Note
We know, we know. You’re glancing at the recipe below and thinking, with annoyance, that not everyone’s kitchen is equipped with a meat grinder. And you’re right. But you sorta need one for this recipe. N-E-E-D. Just wanted to clarify that lest you be tempted to try to Dexter-ify this recipe, because even though the opening credits feature that crazy captivating breakfast scene, and this is a breakfast recipe, we can’t guarantee you’ll get the same results for this sausage with anything but an actual meat grinder. Just go buy one. And watch some Dexter.
Special Equipment: Meat grinder
Breakfast Sausage Patties Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 5 H
- Makes 3 pounds
- 2 pounds very cold pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound very cold fatback, skin removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground sage
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1. You want to grind the meat twice for the best results. (Sweeney Todd fans will know what I’m talking about!) First, run the pork butt and fat though the 1/4-inch plate of a meat grinder. I prefer a finer grind, so for the second grind, I pass the meat through the 1/8-inch plate. If you like a coarser grind, then pass the meat through the 1/4-inch plate again instead.
- 2. In a large bowl, mix the pork, fat, ice water, parsley, salt, sage, black pepper, coriander, red pepper flakes (if using), thyme, nutmeg, and ginger. Work the mixture very well with your hands until all the ingredients are completely blended and the mixture is smooth. Pinch off a piece of the mixture and sauté it in a hot pan until cooked through, then take a nibble to test the seasoning. Tweak the ingredients any way you see fit. (I’m a ginger and sage freak, so I sometimes add a bit more of each.) Cover the sausage mixture tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight, if possible, to allow the flavors to meld.
- 3. Shape the sausage mixture into 3- to 4-inch patties, each about 1/2 inch thick. (You can toss the breakfast sausage patties in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate them for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to 2 months.)
- 4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a few breakfast sausage patties to the skillet at a time, being careful not to crowd them, and sear until the patties are browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
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Breakfast Sausage Patties Recipe © Men's Health (A version of this text and recipe by David Leite appeared in the June 2014 issue.). Photo © Alex Farnum. All rights reserved.